It’s a thing. It’s a perennial. It’s a recurring fascination. Like Daffodils springing up along our local highways in February, some Evangelical somewhere escapes the bonds of fundamentalism, gains new insights and clarity concerning what Jesus and the New Testament actually taught about this or that long-held, cherished doctrine or confession. Then, rather than move along down the road to enlightenment and into their newfound freedom from a dark, dank doctrinal prison, these initiates feel compelled to set the rest of us straight and usher Christ’s church into the hidden knowledge that will set the captives free from dogmatism (such a shame, too, because as Dorothy Sayers once observed The dogma is the drama).… Read the rest
Some of the most heartbreaking episodes in my Christian experience have been the occasional encounter with someone who has become disillusioned with the Gospel or defeated in their spiritual life and concluded “Jesus is not enough.” They may say it differently, but that is the reality. Having passed through a particularly difficult event or hardship or test of obedience, these once enthusiastic followers of Jesus were left joyless, crushed, and hopeless. They “tried Jesus,” but found their Savior was unable to fix a broken relationship or absorb their grief or “help” them to “be good enough” in the Christian life.… Read the rest
Is there hope for a zombie church? The short answer is a resounding YES!
Look at these lavish promises Jesus holds out to churches He said were dead and/or in the process of dying — zombie churches:
… Read the rest
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7 ESV)
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.
So, if zombie churches are sucking the life out of Christian communities and if Jesus goes to war against a zombie church, does the average Christian fill some role in that unfolding judgment?
First, I want to reiterate that churches belong to Jesus and not us — He wars against zombie churches (Revelation 2:16) and we do not — period. If a death-blow falls on a zombie church it is Jesus, with His shocking white hair and flaming eyes Who comes against them by the word of His mouth — Jesus is the zombieslayer.
But, it’s plain throughout the Scriptures that each one of God’s people fills a role in the Church as members of His Body.… Read the rest
Back in the 1980s, as a young Christian involved in the various youth movements of the time, it was very common to hear people speak of this or that church being “dead.” Entire geographical areas were also written off as lifeless: “the church back east is totally dead, man.” That was a common post-mortem among the 20 and 30-somethings in those days. It always struck me as wrong to speak of this or that church as “dead,” when there were certainly genuine born-again Christians involved — I mean, if some of the individuals in a church are abiding in the Vine, how can we say the entire fellowship is dead?… Read the rest
I recently read a wonderful post by church-planter Joel Littlefield: Aren’t There Already Enough Churches? He asks and answers “one of the most common questions a new church planter might hear… ‘Aren’t there already enough churches in this town?’” Not all church planters or denominations engage in that level of reflection before going into a place where a vibrant Christian community already exists — they just get the call, parachute in, and get on with the work. Others simply want to live the ministry dream and don’t consider the impact their vocational choice may have on a wider community of Christians.… Read the rest
Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds by Chris Brauns
Let me begin my post about this book with one of the endorsements from the back cover:
… Read the rest
Offenses will come. It’s a given. Unpacking Forgiveness wisely prepares us for the aftermath. Grieving the loss of our six children in a van accident and then being reminded of that loss throughout thirteen years of subsequent battles forced us to search the Scriptures concerning the issue of forgiveness. Chris not only has confirmed answers that we had found but has thoroughly sorted out what it takes to be right with God and man.
I recently introduced this series of posts on the Spiritual Disciplines and we’ll begin with a couple of definitions. I’ll follow-up with my own observations and insights — then we’ll move on to identify the disciplines themselves.
Donald S. Whitney in his modern classic, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, writes:
The Spiritual Disciplines are those personal and corporate disciplines that promote spiritual growth. They are the habits of devotion and experiential Christianity that have been practiced by the people of God since biblical times.
John Piper calls the Spiritual Disciplines “grace-empowered habits, and Spirit-empowered disciplines.” Piper’s careful wording is so helpful here if we are to avoid blurring the Biblical doctrine of justification with the ongoing process of sanctification.… Read the rest
I received an invitation to speak at a men’s retreat on the topic of the spiritual disciplines, though it has been a while since I read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline and don’t consider myself an authority on the subject by any stretch. It was also decided that I would present Richard Baxter as a case study from my book, Good Mr. Baxter. History remembers Baxter first as a devotional author on the spiritual disciplines, as well as one of the most fruitful and devoted pastors of all time.
The next few posts will feature some of my notes on the various disciplines, along with links to other helpful resources and what I hope to be some helpful insights and tips.… Read the rest
From Thom Rainer’s book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, the author lists some tell-tale signs to alert us that our church is in trouble. Here are the most telling, in my opinion:
- “The church refused to look like the community. The community began a transition toward a lower socioeconomic class thirty years ago, but the church members had no desire to reach the new residents. The congregation thus became an island of middle-class members in a sea of lower-class residents.”
- “There was no attempt to reach the community.”
- “More and more emphasis was placed on the past.”
- “The percentage of the budget for members’ needs kept increasing.
I suppose it’s fitting I write a review of Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next (WBN) toward the end of a day that I’ve spent piddling, getting very little done, on the way to working myself up to settle down to watch a movie.
My cousin Nancy pointed me to What’s Best Next, while discussing our recent retirements. For Type A personalities or those of us who obsess over how much time we’re wasting, our first impulse is to prioritize and jump right into finding more time. That’s universal and, if you don’t believe me, just scroll through the thousands of productivity products and strategies on the web.… Read the rest
Nothing is more helpful than a handy chart. You can find these 6 Counterfeits that Lead Away From the Biblical Gospel in this blog post at The Gospel Coalition, along with some resources to help you and others steer clear of some of these counterfeits that are often so close, but so far apart.
If you haven’t already read it, this is a fine book about cultivating healthy, Gospel relationships within the Church. I read Ken Sande’s first edition of The Peacemaker years ago and have to say this revised and updated Third Edition is greatly improved. I skimmed over my highlighted copy about a month ago and was pleasantly surprised to rediscover this gem, buried among so much treasure:
… Read the rest
People who use escape responses [to conflict] are usually intent on “peace-faking,” or making things look good even when they are not. (This is especially common in the church, where people are often more concerned about the appearance of peace than the reality of peace).
Why do I blog? There are a number of reasons, I suppose.
I came across a quote which answers that question and may give you some insight into why I do whatever I do:
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Our calling is to enjoy God as well as glorify Him. Real fulfillment relates to the purpose for which we were made, to be in reference to God, to be in personal relationship with Him, to be fulfilled by Him, and thus to have an affirmation of life. Christianity should never give any onlooker the right to conclude that Christianity believes in the negation of life. Christianity is able to make a real affirmation because we affirm that it is possible to be in personal relationship to the personal God who is there and who is the final environment of all He created.
Occasionally, I provide pulpit supply, filling in for a pastor who needs a break for whatever reason. I’ve only done this a few times over the years, but always enjoy it.
In July, I’ll be talking about the Gospel and Paul’s reminder to Christians at Corinth to stand in/on the Gospel message or “word” he had preached or “proclaimed” to them, years earlier:
… Read the rest
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1
Have you ever noticed how one-sided your relationship with God is? You would almost get the impression that it’s all about Him. I was thinking about this today and, as it turns out, it’s probably more accurate to speak of His relationship with me. Consider this:
- God took the initiative. We love because he [God] first loved us. (1 John 4:19 ESV) I wasn’t consulted, when the Lord first loved me. Nor, was I even around when He decided to embrace me (we’ll talk about that in a moment). I’m not eternal, contrary to the fantasies embraced by some religions. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
Last year, I joined a group of men reading through the Bible in a year, with the aid of this Biblical theology, The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. It was an incredible experience, hearing the Story of God in a cover-to-cover reading of the Scriptures. So, it was both shocking and delightful to hear Nancy Guthrie express many of the same discoveries our men’s group made, covering essentially the same ground. I highly recommend a good listen to this podcast for anyone, at any stage in your story, following Jesus: WHI-1254 | Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament, Part 1 – Out of the Horse’s Mouth.… Read the rest
Yeah, I’m really put off, too, when someone says, “you just have to read this.” But, if you’re leading the church in any capacity and especially if you are an idealistic young (or, not so young) church planter or minister, this book is a gem.
I wish someone would have pointed me to it back in 1994, when it was first published. Of course, at that time I probably wouldn’t have thought it that helpful. After all, I had my Bible and the Holy Spirit living inside of me. I was part of a young, growing movement of Christians, multiplying and establishing on-fire churches and ministries.… Read the rest
Let’s start out 2015 on a positive note. Have you ever thought of a New Years Resolution as repentance — turning away from sin or indifference and back around onto a more Gospel oriented course for the future? Scott Thomas thinks so and I’m inclined to agree with him. Perhaps this more manageable, year-end sort of reflection on how our hearts are churning out idols,1 may be more effective (and, certainly less painful and hurtful to others) than cruising along until we’ve foundered upon the rocks of sin and self. Scott began 2015 with this post on Facebook:
… Read the rest
Goal setting is a form of repentance (literally, thinking differently afterwards).
Being Human: The Nature of Spiritual Experience (BH) by Jerram Barrs and Ranald Macaulay – this book appeared at a crucial time in my walk as a young Christian and exerted a powerful influence on my entire life. Its message continues to play a valuable role, causing me to examine and evaluate the perpetual and ubiquitous ebb and flow of new movements, trendy philosophies and sure-fire techniques, rising and receding within the contemporary Christian culture. America has been appropriately described as a disposable society and the church has not only adopted a superficial, sanctified brand of consumerism, but might even teach the folks up on the Mad Avenue a few tricks!… Read the rest
Alexander Strauch’s Biblical Eldership (BE) packs the most thorough exposition of relevant passages concerning elders in the Bible into one volume, while offering a spirited and compelling apologetic for the practice of non-clerical, plural leadership in the local church. But, it’s not just for church leaders – all readers will find a clear and well-reasoned appeal to all Christians to practice a humble, relational style of Christianity modeled after Jesus Christ. And, even if you do not find Alex Strauch’s model or paradigm ultimately convincing and advocate a monarchical episcopacy or congregational form of church government, I guarantee you will be challenged, inspired and equipped to take your ministry, whatever it may be, more seriously and you will serve with greater passion and effectiveness.… Read the rest
What does every church leader need in the 21st century? Perhaps you gave the standard Sunday school response: Jesus! Well, that is certainly true. Since we are imbibing some more Gospel Goodness, you may have thought I was going to wrestle you to the ground and pin you until you cried “GOSPEL!” You wouldn’t be far off. Authors Scott Thomas and Tom Wood lead off with this simple and succinct conviction:
Every church leader needs a coach. Every church leader needs to be coaching other leaders.
I’m inclined to agree with them. For church leaders, a relationship with Christ is a given.… Read the rest
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16–17 ESV)
Because the gospel or good news is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” it just makes sense that I would want to be able to communicate that good news: I want to be fluent in the language of the gospel. But, more than that I want to gospel myself, remembering that the gospel that saves is the gospel that sanctifies – what Jesus has done for me is at work in me, transforming me into His image.… Read the rest
Now that we’re a bit better at gospeling ourselves, thanks to Joe Thorn’s Note to Self (yeah, that’s gospel as a verb), we can look at another standard work on the Gospel-Centered Everything bookshelf . The Gospel-Centered Life (GCL) is a nine-lesson small group study and a helpful resource for individuals. There is also a Gospel-Centered Life Leader’s Guide. These books are authored by Will Walker and blogger/writer, Bob Thune, one of the pastors at Coram Deo Church Community (yeah, you read that church name right and the word order is significant).
I’ve been known to claim GCL is the closest thing to a perfect book I’ve come across in a long time — I’m being mildly hyperbolic.… Read the rest
I thought I’d kick off my regular blogging with a discussion of a few books I’ve found not only insightful but actually helpful over a difficult decade for Denise and myself. After 41 years together, we’ve seen some huge changes, weathered a catastrophic illness, and lost loved ones. But, this was probably the most concentrated season of loss, sadness, and reorientation ever, reaching a crescendo these past three years.
We have been sustained through it all by the Gospel or the Good News: That Jesus died for our sins, according to the Scriptures — that He was buried, rose again the third day, and ascended to the right hand of the Father.… Read the rest